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What Is “Adverse Employment Action”? Why Does It Matter?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2021 | Firm News

Federal and state laws prohibit employers from taking “adverse employment action” against someone for being a member of a protected class. Protected classes are those who are considered “minorities.” Your age, sex, religion, race, creed, or skin color might put you in a protected class.

Anti-discrimination laws do not protect employees from petty insults or minor inconveniences even if it might have been based on their status as a member of a protected class. However, they do come into play if an “adverse employment action” has taken place. As a result, employees need to understand what an adverse employment action is to determine whether they have a discrimination claim.

Defining Adverse Employment Action

Examples of what is clearly an “adverse employment action” includes:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Denial of leave requests
  • Suspension
  • Failure to pay appropriate bonuses
  • Non-promotion

There are some other examples that might be deemed an adverse action depending on the facts. For example, if you are transferred to a different a less desirable position that is well below your job skills or involves only demeaning work, or to a position that is located far away from where the commute makes it extremely difficult or almost impossible for you, that could be an adverse employment action. Being assigned very difficult tasks without proper training or that no one wants to do can also be adverse employment action.

Other examples of things that could be adverse employment action could be:

  • Reassigning some of your important work duties that define your job title to someone else
  • Taking away supervisory responsibilities
  • Eliminating the benefits or “perks” that you used to receive based on your race
  • Excessive and constant scrutiny and repeatedly forcing you to redo assignments that are objectively acceptable, and frequently threatening to terminate you

Keep in mind that although many adverse employment actions affect your pay, not everything that an employer can do that is discriminatory will be tied to your pay. You might get paid the same rate but be sent to a dead-end position well beneath your qualifications with no chance for promotion.

Adverse employment action can also include harassment or actions that eventually rise to the level of a hostile work environment is also an adverse action.

Why Does Showing Adverse Employment Action Matter?

To prove your case for employment discrimination, you must show that you suffered specific damage or specific injuries that result from adverse action. You may be able to show that the supervisor failed to smile or greet you in a friendly manner because of your protected status, but this would not be sufficient to prevail in a lawsuit in the absence of adverse action.

Talk to our team to determine whether you can assert an employment discrimination case based on the unique facts of your situation